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Letter to the Editor

Mr. McCaffrey: Please stop with your misrepresentations concerning the Library Lecture Hall

Well, Mr. McCaffrey is at it again. Same o’, Same o’. Spreading mistruths about the proposed Library Lecture Hall.

This time it’s an “Open Letter” to Dr. Frederick Navarro, Superintendent of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

Mr. McCaffrey trots out the same trite argument that Library programs such as the Witte Lecture Series, Library Live, Medicine in Your Backyard, It’s Your Money, Wake Up Newport, Speak Up Newport, Friends of the Library, Newport Mesa ProLiteracy, the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation and other community programs should schedule their over 200 annual events with over 69,000 participants at the Corona del Mar High School Theater or the Robins Hall/Loats Theater at Newport Harbor High School. 

Dr. Navarro has already told Mr. McCaffrey in an October 4, 2019 email to Councilmember Brenner which was reported in the press: “...our theaters are always booked. We do not allow outside use for two reasons, schools in each zone also use the high school theaters and the schedule is so tight that we cannot find time for all the elementary schools in a year. In the summer, our theaters are down for several weeks for safety inspections and equipment repairs, maintenance and upgrades. We are barely able to squeeze in our own children’s theater summer programs and our summer music camp performances with our busy operations schedule.”

So Mr. McCaffrey and in light of the current overuse of our high school auditoriums, please let us know how you would schedule over 200 events and over 69,000 folks in the facilities at CDM and Harbor.

And in his “Open Letter” to Dr. Navarro, Mr. McCaffrey repeats the following mistruth which has been countered on many occasions: “Instead of the Newport Beach taxpayers spending $8 million on a Library Lecture Hall...” We believe Mr. McCaffrey is well aware that half of the construction costs will be privately donated and will, in effect, be a gift to the City. 

And, finally, Mr. McCaffrey claims in his “Open Letter” to Dr. Navarro that “the library trustees host 6 or 7 high profile speakers each year. Surely you can find 6 or 7 evenings between two theaters to save Newport’s taxpayers $8 million.”

Wrong on all counts Mr. McCaffrey. Please see above.

Mr. McCaffrey has prepared a form email, which he requested our residents to send to the Council. We have prepared the following response to each of Mr. McCaffrey’s emailers. We hope that they will contact us with any remaining questions once they understand the truth.

Here is our response to Mr. McCaffrey’s emailers:

“Dear Mr./Ms. _____________:

My name is Paul Watkins. I serve as Vice Chair of the Newport Beach Public Library Board of Library Trustees (the “Board”). Based on your email to the City Council, the Board wanted me to respond to insure that you have all of the actual facts with respect to the proposed Library Lecture Hall.

(1) First and foremost, you should know that the Lecture Hall is not an “$8 Million taxpayer rip off” as initially claimed by Mr. McCaffrey. The Lecture Hall will be constructed with private funds as well as public funds. Half of the construction costs will be privately donated and will, in effect, be a gift to the City. Had Mr. McCaffrey done any research before making the accusation, he would have discovered that the project has always been a 50-50 cost sharing arrangement between Library supporters and the City. Since the City’s General Fund Budget is about $230 Million, the Lecture Hall one-time contribution will be equivalent to two percent of one year of the General Fund revenues. So it is a false charge that the City will not be able to dredge the harbor, or fight any John Wayne expansion, or support police, or pay other debts if any money is spent on the Lecture Hall.

(2) Over the past few years, the Friends Room has become inadequate in meeting our residents’ needs for presentations and community involvement. But you might not know this if you have never been to a popular event in the Library Friends Room. The Friends Room (capacity of 187) hosted over 69,000 folks in 2018 spanning more than 200 events, approximately 2-1/2 times the number of participants in 2009. And over 1.1 million patrons visited our Libraries in 2018. Demand continues to grow for events and for the Library itself. We anticipate that the Witte Lecture Series, Library Live, Medicine in Your Backyard, It’s Your Money, Wake Up Newport, Speak Up Newport, Friends of the Library, Newport Mesa ProLiteracy, Foundation and other community and outside groups will make regular use of the Lecture Hall with some revenue generation possibilities to the City. Quite simply, the demand for programming by our residents who do enjoy the Library has exceeded the capacity of the Friends Room. And there are no other City facilities that would work any better.

(3) The sight lines from the flat-floored Library Friends Room do not permit guests in the back half of the Friends Room to clearly see the speaker at the front of the Room. The Community Room has a similar capacity to the Friends Room and it too is flat-floored. The Council Chambers has a smaller capacity still. Where would a speaker in the Council Chambers stand? In the three feet behind the dais? In front of the dais but behind the built-in speaker podiums? Neither the Community Room nor the Chambers are actually at the Library where supporters gather before and after events, and Library Staff can be efficiently used because they too have offices at the Library. The 275 fixed comfortable seating Lecture Hall will be sloped from back to front with excellent sight lines throughout. (An additional 50 seats may be added for larger events.) It will have planned pre and post-event areas and can be easily staffed by Library personnel.

(4) Speakers at the flat-floored venues have frequently mentioned that they prefer to look into the faces of their audience to gauge reaction during the course of their talks. This is simply not possible at the Friends Room or the Community Room, nor is it possible with the Event Center at the Oasis Senior Center. Mr. McCaffrey also chastised the Board for not supporting our local schools by using the auditoriums at Corona del Mar High School and at Harbor High School without bothering to check to see if they were available. The Newport-Mesa Unified School District Superintendent bluntly emailed back that the auditoriums are not available to the Library due to already overuse by the high schools themselves and by the elementary/middle schools in the District. Mr. McCaffrey also suggested using Oasis, but Oasis is primarily designed for seniors’ programming, not Library programming, not to mention that it is heavily booked. And how would the limited parking at Oasis work in a very busy facility that suddenly has 300 people descend upon it, not to mention having that number of folks driving through Olde Corona del Mar to get there and to exit from there.

(5) The Lecture Hall will complete the centralized Library campus as the “cultural, educational, and informational heart” of our community. The Library Staff and the Foundation’s offices are located within the Library. The Library Staff members and the Foundation Staff members who arrange for and execute the events at the Lecture Hall will be on-site and able to efficiently carry out their duties with a nearby centralized Lecture Hall. Did you know that the Foundation raised $350,000 last year for Library programming, and also gave a check to the City for $155,000 to spend on Library-related materials? This total of $500,000 was all privately-raised money and enabled a wide variety of presentations in the Friends Room.

(6) A state of the art Lecture Hall will be able to attract world class speakers, performers, and presenters to Newport Beach. Many authors and other Library-centric presenters expect to discuss their books or other scholarly works at a library and not elsewhere.

It is our hope that once you have reviewed the foregoing points in favor of the proposed Lecture Hall, you will reconsider your position and support the Lecture Hall. And please know that you can call me or send me an email at any time to further discuss the proposed Lecture Hall.

Thank you.”

So, Mr. McCaffrey, please stop with your misrepresentations concerning the Library Lecture Hall. 

Sincerely,

Paul Watkins, Vice Chair 

Newport Beach Board of Library Trustees

Newport Beach

714.403.6408